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2005 The British Universities Pool Championships

This year was only the second UPC pool competition in history and the first year to have a women's team event. Having not seen the standard of the other women's teams before, our two Oxford teams went in not quite knowing what to expect but looking forward to proving themselves. One challenge that had to be faced, however, was that the tournament was to be played in world rules, a totally different set of rules to those played in the Oxford Uni leagues. Out of the eight players that went to the UPC championships only three had ever played these rules before, but with lots of practice sessions leading up to the tournament we felt confident that our hard work would pay off.

Oxford put in two teams this year (each team contained 3 players and a reserve). The 1st Team consisted of Sarah Milham (capt), Alessandra La Via, Sally Franklin and Kara Anderson . The 2nd Team was Liz Lennox (capt), Nicki Hoskins, Lou Atkinson and Ally Arnall.

 

2005 BUSA Team

Team from Left to Right: Nicki, Alex, Lou, Sarah, Liz, Sally, Kara, Ally.

 

Friday

After dropping our bags off at Sarah's house where we were staying, we arrived at the pool club at about 5pm and registered, not without a massive scare though when one of the team didn't realise she needed her bod card and was nearly stopped from playing! Friday night comprised of the first 3 rounds of the singles competition. Fortunately only three of us had to play the preliminaries, whilst Lou and Alex were jammy enough to get a bye through to the Last 16. In the preliminaries Ally and Nicki played some great pool to defeat their opponents 2-0. Liz worked very hard in her frames but some great clearing and tactics from her opponent left the scoreline 2-0 against. In the last 32, the story was pretty much the same across the board, the Oxford girls generally had the upper hand with a superior knowledge of tactics. Sally and Kara crushed their opponents 2-0 whilst Sarah and Ally got through 2-1 with Ally's one frame against coming from a cheeky fluke on the black. So 6 players through to the last 16: not a bad result!

Unfortunately now, two of our 1st team players were facing each other: Sally vs Kara. It was always going to be an exciting match. It started off very tense with great opportunities created on both sides but Kara was on fire that day and pulled out all the stops to win 2-0. Meanwhile a very hungover and off-form Alex stepped up to play her Last 16. Due to the horrendous amount of Tequila consumed the night before, she could hardly pot a ball but instead played a very clever couple of tactical frames. In her last frame she fell totally out of position on the black but sent the double sailing straight into the middle pocket: 2-0! Lou then stepped up, lost the first but then pulled it back brilliantly to a decider, in which she unfortunately lost going in-off the black. Sarah kept to form and ensured her match was tense and exciting, it went right down to the wire but she came out on top potting the black to cheers of 'av it!!' to win 2-1. Ally didn't quite manage to get the measure of her opponent, leaving three girls in the quarterfinals.

First up in the quarters was Alex, who, having recovered from earlier, played a much higher standard of pool. However, the girl she played was incredible, making clearances from nowhere, and although she put up a very good fight the scoreline was 3-0 against. Kara then stepped up and, still on the form from earlier, there was no doubt about her going through easily to the semis; she won 3-1 in no time at all. Sarah then took up the baton and played some great pool.The crowd were in stitches, when she got herself into a standard World Rules situation: she couldn't lose if her opponent potted all their balls except the one that Sarah had placed in front of her own over a pocket. Sarah kept giving her opponent two visits by potting one of her opponent's balls. Sarah's opponent had no idea what was happening and kept going for clearances without thinking ahead. She even looked confused as to why Sarah had been fouling, potting her balls after the frame had finished and Sarah had won. Unfortunately, though, not all of the frames were so one-sided and the match went down to a nail-biting decider again, which was very close indeed, but Sarah managed to come through winning 3-2. A very tense and exciting end to the day! So with all the pool done for the day we headed back to Sarah's where her mum had a lovely home-cooked dinner ready for us.

 

Saturday

Saturday was a very busy day because as well as the ladies' team event, there were also the qualifiers for the men's competition which was two weeks later. The team of five for the men's event were Sarah, Sally, Alex, Kara and Liz. The day started off with the women's team group stages:

Oxford 1st Team

As there were four players for three places we decided to do a fair rotation of who dropped out. The first team was made up of the three most experienced players- Sarah, Sally and Alex who had all played at least two varsity matches before, and Kara, a new addition to the squad, who had shown great promise in the trials. There were 4 teams in our group. The first match was against Essex 2. Kara, Alex and Sarah played and totally crushed the other team, only dropping one frame to win 5-1. The second match was pretty much exactly the same with Oxford once again only dropping the one frame and looking very strong. With an on-form Oxford side there didn't seem to be much that anyone could do to beat us. In the third match Sally, Kara and Alex didn't give away any chances at all and York 2 just had to look on as the final round finished with them not managing to get a frame at all! 5-0! That put the A Team easily through to the Quarter Finals.

Oxford 2nd Team

The second Oxford team playing over the weekend was made up of four of the newest additions to the squad: Captain Liz Lennox, Nicki Hoskins, Lou Atkinson and Ally Arnall. It was a first chance for all of them to be involved in competitive matches, and they were looking forward to putting into practice the strategies and skills they had been building over the past few weeks. The first match was being played at the same time as the 1sts, on the table next to them so there was a lot of support between the two teams and it was scary how the two games seemed to mirror each other. The 2nds were playing York 1st, they were playing really well, capitalising on the chances that York gave them. Nicki won her first frame comfortably, but not as easily as Lou who claimed victory when her opponent potted the black on her second shot! Ally fought for the next frame but lost to the strong York captain; however Nicki and Lou were able to finish easily due to great "jazzy" play and the game finished with a fantastic 5-1 scoreline. (A score that was to be the source of much banter after the competition as the 1st team was to only beat York 1sts 5-2 when they met in the later stages!). The next match was against Essex 1st and was heartbreaking, despite most of the frames being very close every frame went the other way with Essex beating them 5-0. In this group there were only 3 teams so the 2nds had now finished all their matches and had to sit and watch the match between Essex and York to see if they would go through. It all seemed very hopeful as York had to beat Essex 5-1 or better to qualify. Against all odds though, York managed to pull out exactly what they needed and won 5-1. This meant that Oxford 2nds didn't manage to get through the group stages on frame difference. In fact they missed out by one frame. As gutting as this was it was pretty awesome to see our 2nds being put in a group with two 1st teams from other universities and totally giving them a run for their money at a set of rules none of our girls had played before. It shows that in Oxford we don't just have a few good players at the top but we have a large number of players of a high standard, something no other university can match.

The Qualifying Round for men's BUSA

The teams in our group were Cambridge 2nds (we were overjoyed to get to play the tabs!) and Birmingham 1sts. First up were the tabs. Cambridge were actually very strong, having only lost two players from their varsity squad last year they said their standard was higher than it had been in a long time and it showed. We didn't really manage to keep control of the table and they seemed to make clearances from nowhere. Alex and Kara did really well and managed to take a frame off the tabs each to leave the score at 2-8. Kara's frame could very well have been the highlight of the tournament, she went all out potting and boy did she pot. Before the poor tab knew what had happened he was 7-balled! The news was announced to the entire hall and Kara got a round of applause from about 80 people who all chanted 'trousers! trousers!' but the tab ran away embarrassed!

Determined to redeem ourselves and shows these blokes that they should be scared of us Oxford girls we went head to head with Birmingham. The match went off to a cracking start and loads of people flocked to watch as we were beating them, at one point we were 5-1 up but then the tables turned. Sally was really unlucky to go in-off a black and Sarah potted the black and her opponent's ball (loss of frame in world rules) we lost a couple of other frames and before we knew it the score was 8-6 to Birmingham. It had been a very close game though and without the bad luck earlier in the match then it could have been a totally different story. Kara and Alex once again performed very well against the men with Kara winning 2/3 and Alex 2/2. Unfortunately it left us having not qualified for the men's but bring on next year!! We'll show 'em!

 

Now if all of that pool wasn't enough, more was still to come! The semis and the finals of the ladies' singles were up to finish the day off. Oxford still had Kara and Sarah in the semis. Kara was up against Lorraine Fivey who had already knocked out Alex in the quarter finals, with Lorraine being a World Rules England Team trialist Kara knew she had her work cut out but she played some incredible pool and was potting brilliantly. She managed to take a frame off Lorraine and the score finished 3-1 quite quickly. Sarah was meanwhile playing on the other table against a girl from UWE. Sarah made some great use of the deliberate foul aspect of world rules to turn the situations round in her favour. She didn't quite seem on form though and gave her opponent a couple too many chances and was faced having to play a decider again! However, once again Sarah made sure of her victory and this time finished with a long black straight into the pocket.

Sarah was then facing Lorraine Fivey in the final of the women's singles. Lorraine had already done a very good job in accounting for Alex and Kara. Sarah played some fantastic pool but Lorraine was always one step ahead, her vast experience in the rules showed through, and although Sarah was close in every frame the scoreline finished at 4-1 to Lorraine.

Sunday

Sunday was the Quarter finals onwards of the team event.

Quarter Finals

The teams were Oxford 1sts vs Warwick. Sally, Kara and Sarah were playing in this match and it would prove to be quite an unexpected challenge. In the group stages Warwick had claimed a match and lost the other 5-1, so perhaps Oxford went in a little too confident. The first two frames over and the scoreline was 2-0 against, a massive shock with Oxford being the favorites to win the competition! Oxford kept their heads and managed to pull one frame back to make it 2-1. Sally stepped to the table next and played a brilliant frame but unfortunately jawed a tricky black and had to watch as her opponent cleared. 1-3. Kara then stepped up, all guns firing, and went for it in true attacking Kara style: she was too much to contend with and totally outpotted her opponent. 2-3. Sarah was next up and having played so many deciders in her singles so far she knew how to win under pressure, she played a very clever and careful game to pull the scoreline to a draw. One thing that Oxford had at this point though and the other girls didn't was a fantastic set of supporters, the 2nds and Alex were sat there cheering the three girls on and at some points making enough noise that you could have heard them back in Oxford. The encouragement and support helped a lot and even when the next frame went the wrong way and Oxford had to win the last two frames there was still a lot of belief that we wouldn't be beaten. With the score 3-4 down, first to five, Kara knew she had to play well. The phrase 'What would John do?' seemed to be in the back of her mind as she changed from her usual aggressive style and played a fantastic tactical frame, cleverly getting herself into one of the standard World Rules situations to totally dominate the game and win without any trouble. That left poor Sarah about to play her 4th decider of the tournament so far, having not lost one yet, though she was adamant not to start then. It was a very close frame but in the end Sarah had the upper hand and she won to take the girls through to the semis!

Semi finals

The semi final match was against Essex who had played consistently well throughout the tournament. After such a close match against Warwick, the Oxford girls went all out to make sure the match would be a sure win - another close match like the last would be a bit too much to take! It didn't start off well, though, with the first frame going to Essex. Next up though was Alex: after missing out on the last match she was ready and rearing to go; she played a great frame and there wasn't much her opponent could do - she seemed to realise that by potting the black halfway through the frame! 1-1! Sarah then took to the table and won the next frame very convincingly. The pressure seemed to be off a little then as Alex went for the 4th frame. She played a fun and lighthearted frame, even bantering the ref when the balls didn't split well off the break: 'Who racked those balls?!' The refs had come to love us by this time, even though we were the favourites we never played like we were under a lot of pressure and always had a good time, with a lot of banter and fun during the frames. That was one of the great things about the Oxford girls - the way we were so down to earth and made sure that we had a lot of fun whilst playing serious pool. So, at 3-1 up things were looking good. Sarah then took the next frame playing some great World rules tactics, once again using the set World Rules pieces to her advantage. The next frame didn't go our way even though Kara put up a great fight and the timekeeper was an Irish goat, but Oxford took the next frame to make it a 5-2 victory!! Finals here we come, bring it on!!!

Finals

The final was against York 1st, the team that Oxford 2nds had beaten 5-1. Unfortunately for the 1st team, York had picked up on a lot of tactics from playing the 2nds and had demonstrated their skill by getting all the way to the final. In the first frame the York girl did a great clearance and got down to the black, but to her credit stood up and called a foul against herself that even the ref hadn't seen. Sally wasn't about to give her another chance, and showed a lot of bottle taking on a clearance with her opponent on what would be an easy black if she missed. Alex then took to the table and was totally in control of the frame, nearly completed a beautiful clearance, but on missing the black was repeatedly snookered. Despite getting out of most of them the frame went the other way. There was then a bit of a panic as the refs nearly gave away the next frame due to Sally being in the toilet, but when she came out she made sure of her victory with a great frame of pool and finished off with a very tricky black using a rest. The next frame went the other way leaving the score at 3-2, first to five. Sarah was next at the table and played a great frame of pool, trying to top Sally's black by potting her's left-handed - it would have been impressive had the black not been over the pocket. 4-2. Alex was next up and made up for her earlier mistakes by playing one of the best frames of pool in the tournament, including a cut up the length of the table to cover an important corner pocket, finished off with a very controlled 5 ball clearance to win the tournament!! The moment the black was potted the rest of the Oxford girls jumped up screaming and set off the party poppers they'd bought from the shop that day. What an achievement, and winning it was even harder with the pressure of being the favourites.

The UPC pool championships were a great reflection of how far Oxford women's pool has come. The 1sts won the competition having only one match that was closer than 5-2. The seconds beat the eventual finalists 5-1 and missed out on the knockout rounds by only one frame in the frame difference. In the singles 3 out of 4 of the 1st team players went out to the eventual winner and the other went out to another Oxford player. Bring on next year and hopefully both the team and singles titles will be ours!!

 

2005 Team Again!!

  For further information contact the committee on OUWPC@hotmail.com.